Spotlight on Copa América 2019, the oldest continental football competition in the world. Carlos Molano follows the Brazilian event for The Cult of Calcio, providing match analysis and personal insight.
There’s no wonder why Brazil–Argentina – El Clasico de America – is always regarded as a legendary game. No matter in which tournament the two South American giants face each other, or even if it’s for a friendly game, the level of intensity and passion they put never disappoints anyone. That was also the case on Tuesday in Belo Horizonte, where host country Brazil beat the Albiceleste 2-0 in the first Semifinal of the Copa America 2019.
Brazilian coach Tite surprised all analysts by choosing to lineup both his strikers Roberto Firmino and Gabriel Jesus in a 4-2-3-1 formation. Argentina’s Lionel Scaloni, on the other hand, chose to resort to his usual suspects, confirming his tendency to do very few changes during the whole competition.
Argentina had been receiving much criticism from their own supporters and journalists, but I think some credit should be given to Lionel Scaloni, who inherited a national team in a very complicated situation. Despite not having much coaching experience, Scaloni took quite a few brave and risky decisions.
One of those was to put Paris St. Germain’s Leandro Paredes and moreover Udinese’s Rodrigo De Paul in charge of the midfield area. The Udinese player was one of the most positive surprises among the Albiceleste lines during the Copa America, and he confirmed himself once again in the game against Brazil. De Paul will probably receive some interesting transfer offers this summer.
In the first minutes, Brazil took advantage of what Jorge Valdano used to call miedo escénico. The once Real Madrid coach believed that in the early stages of a game, the host side should exploit the pressure of their local fans and try to score the first goal as early as possible. Valdano applied this tactic many times while coaching the Blancos.
Leandro Paredes tried to shake off the initial pressure from the hosts with a long-range shot which almost hit the target guarded by Alisson Becker. But in the 19th minute, Roberto Firmino crossed for Gabriel Jesus, serving him an easy chance to score the first goal of the night.
It was since 2014, during the World Cup that Brazil hosted and just before the shameful Mineirazo (Brazil’s 1-7 defeat to Germany in this very same stadium…), that the whole country couldn’t celebrate for a goal with the same energy and happiness.
As everyone kept waiting for an apathetic Leo Messi to make his appearance into the tournament, La Pulga slowly started to ask for the ball and participate more in Argentina’s offensive combinations. His only spark in the first 45 minutes was a free kick on which Sergio Aguero hit Brazil’s crossbar with a header.
The second half followed quite a different pattern, with Argentina now dominating all aspects of the game, keeping possession of the ball, and constantly threatening Allison Becker. Leo Messi hit the post with a shot of his, but Brazil reacted with a clear chance by Philippe Coutinho which narrowly missed the target. Even from the free kick spot, Messi was far from his usual level.
Just as Brazil were struggling the most, a very fast and perfectly-executed counterattack put an end to the Semifinal. This time, it was Gabriel Jesus to assist Roberto Firmino for the 2-0 goal in the 71st minute.
The Argentinians fought until the end, protesting to no avail for what they considered to be two penalty fouls on their favor, but ultimately had to prolong their crossing of the desert – delaying again their lifting of a trophy they have not been winning since 1993.
After the final whistle, most of their players kept complaining to referee Roddy Zambrano out of anger and desperation. A livid Leo Messi went as far as claiming that the CONMEBOL is controlled by Brazil during the home-hosted tournament, and not much can be done about it.
Tonight, we will find out whether it will be Chile or Peru to face Brazil in the Final of the Copa America 2019.
July 3, 2019 – CONMEBOL Copa America 2019 Semifinals
SCORERS: 19′ Gabriel Jesus, 71′ Roberto Firmino
|BRAZIL (4-2-3-1): Alisson; Dani Alves, Marquinhos (64′ Miranda), Thiago Silva, Alex Sandro; Arthur, Casemiro; Gabriel Jesus (70′ Allan), Coutinho, Everton (46′ Willian); Roberto Firmino (Cassio, Ederson, Filipe Luis, David Neres, Eder Militao, Fernandinho, Paquetá, Richarlison, Fagner) Coach: Tite|
|ARGENTINA (4-3-1-2): Armani; Foyth, Pezzella, Otamendi, Tagliafico (85′ Dybala); De Paul (67′ Lo Celso), Paredes, Acuña (59′ Di Maria); Messi; Lautaro Martínez, Aguero (Marchesin, Musso, Saravia, Pereyra, Funes Mori, Casco, Pizarro, Rodriguez, Suarez) Coach: Scaloni|
REFEREE: Zambrano (Ecuador)
NOTES: Yellow Cards: Dani Alves, Allan (B), Tagliafico, Acuna, Foyth, Lautaro Martinez, Aguero (A); Extra Time: 1st Half 2′, 2nd Half 4′